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Providing For Consideration Of Senate Amendment To H.J. Res. 45, Increasing The Statutory Limit On The Public Debt

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ANDREWS. Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my friend from Massachusetts for yielding.

The constituents that I listen to know that both parties are responsible for borrowing a lot of money. They know that we borrowed a significant amount of money in recent times. They also know that the minority party voted to borrow and increase the national debt by 70 percent during the term of the prior President. They know that this is the worst economic times we've had since the Great Depression. They don't know this by reading the newspaper. They know it by reading the balance in their checking account or reading the foreclosure notice that came in the mail yesterday or reading the want ads because they're looking for a job. They know this.

They know that us saying the Republicans did wrong and the Republicans saying we did wrong isn't going to fix their problems. So what they know is they want to hear us talk about what to do about this burgeoning problem of the national debt. Here is our answer: We first believe that the best way to reduce the debt and reduce the deficit is to get people back to work so that individuals and families are able to pay taxes and so that businesses are able to pay taxes off of their profits.

The best deficit- and debt-reduction program is full employment. We have nothing like full employment, nothing like it at all. We've lost huge numbers of jobs, and our plan to do something about it has been this: First, we believe that we should cut taxes for middle-class families so they have more money to spend. That's what we did last year, and the President proposes to do it again this year. Second, we believe that we should cut taxes for small businesses so they can reinvest in their businesses. That's what we voted for last year. We're prepared to do it again. We believe that we should put people back to work, rebuilding our roads and our bridges, rail systems, clean water systems, clean energy. That's what we voted to do last year.

We are a long way from succeeding in this effort, but here is what has happened: In the last quarter of 2009, nearly 800,000 Americans lost their jobs. Tomorrow we will hear the reports for the month of January. They won't be good. But they will be a lot better than 800,000 people losing their jobs, which is what happened in the last quarter of the year before last year. We've seen growth in the fourth quarter at 5.7 percent. That means nothing to you if you're still looking at the want ads, but it means that there is reason to think that jobs are on the way.

And what have we heard about this? The chief economic adviser to President McCain's Presidential campaign said that the key factor of that growth taking place was the recovery bill that we passed last February. Those are his words, not mine. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as Mr. McGovern said, estimates that as many as 2.4 million jobs have been created as a result of the recovery bill. We have a long way to go. We have laid out our plan to get there. Frankly, the minority has not laid out a plan, and we look forward to them doing so.

The second thing that you need to do is to restrain and reduce spending. Most people will agree that the number one spending problem is entitlements, and the number one entitlement problem is health care. There are two ways to reduce health care spending. The first way is to restrain spending right now in existing programs. That's what we did. In November, a bill came to this floor to reform the country's health care system that would have stopped what I believe are wasteful payments to health care providers and people making money off the system to the tune of $480 billion, real deficit reduction that we all voted for. No one--with one exception--on the other side voted to do that.

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Mr. ANDREWS. I thank the gentleman. The second way to reduce health care costs is to change the health care system so there is more competition, so that insurance companies have to compete for people's business and keep costs down that way. We'll all have a chance to vote on a bill that does that next week.

And yes, the third thing that I think you have to do is to raise some revenue. The President and most of us ran on this proposition. We do believe that couples who make more than $250,000 a year and individuals who make more than $200,000 a year should be asked to pay the tax rates that they paid before the Bush tax cuts of 2001. Now we heard in 1993 that this would ruin the economy. It would cause calamity. It would be the end of the American economy as we know it. Mr. Gingrich said this. Others said this. They were wrong. After they said these things, the economy created 23 million new jobs. When we followed their way, the economy lost jobs in the succeeding 8 years.

The American people want to know what we intend to do, and we've said what we intend to do. We know it can be better.

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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam Speaker, I'd love to engage the gentleman if he would take the time; but I'd like to ask him, if he says it's so good, why are 32 of the 56 pages exemptions to PAYGO? And I would like to find out if this is so real----

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. I'll be happy to respond because those were some of the same exemptions that existed in the law, and the fact is the deficit came down. We erased the $300 billion annual deficits of the Reagan administration. We did it over time, and we left you $5 trillion that you squandered.

Mr. SESSIONS. Good. I'd like the gentleman to address why are 32 of the 56 pages----

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. It's the same law we had before.

Mr. SESSIONS. Oh, we're going to blame it on Ronald Reagan now. I reclaim my time and I appreciate the gentleman for blaming this on Ronald Reagan. I tell you what, I would be very pleased to engage in a dialogue with the gentleman if you'll answer one question.

Mr. ANDREWS. Yes, sir.

Mr. SESSIONS. Why are you down on the floor, your party saying this is the real deal and yet 32 of the 56 pages exempt spending?

Mr. ANDREWS. May I answer the question?

Mr. SESSIONS. I would enjoy the gentleman doing that. I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. ANDREWS. They do not exempt spending. Here's what they say. As the gentleman knows, the structure of this bill is that increases in mandatory spending or decreases in revenue must be offset. There are four exceptions, the so-called ``doctor fix,'' the SGR payments; middle class tax cuts; the estate tax fix, which I think both parties have tried to support.

Mr. SESSIONS. Then why are we--we did the same thing but now it's okay for you.

Mr. ANDREWS. If I may, I'm trying to answer. Would the gentleman yield so I could answer?

Mr. SESSIONS. I am engaging with the gentleman.

Mr. ANDREWS. The pages the gentleman is talking about are what are called the sequestration rules; and what that means is, if the Congress violates pay-as-you-go, and it spends more than it should under those rules, then there is an automatic reduction in spending to make the so-called score card balance out, to make sure things are brought into balance. Sequestration has happened once in the years that pay-as-you-go were in effect. It was when Mr. Darman was Budget Director. It has never happened before. What these rules say is if there's a sequestration, there are certain programs that are off limits to the sequestration. But they're not exceptions to the PAYGO rule.

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